Tech in the classroom: preparing our students for tomorrow.
GUEST COLUMN | by Kevin Wrenn
We’ve all heard it a million times in recent years, but it bears repeating: the world is changing and so are the skills young people need to be successful. It’s fair to say that the upcoming generation is facing a number of daunting challenges as they enter the workforce, but many schools, parents and even students themselves are beginning to realize that there are numerous tools available that instill the skills necessary to compete, thrive and succeed in an increasingly demanding world.
It bears repeating: the world is changing and so are the skills young people need to be successful.
Not surprisingly, it is technology that is both responsible for many of the changes we are seeing as well as the key to helping students adjust so they are not left behind. Below are observations on some of the ways technology is upending traditional learning methods and replacing them with something new and exciting and, most importantly, preparing students for life after graduation.
Closer by Far
For many workers, the definition of “office” now includes places like the home, a favorite café, a bus or train, or — anywhere, really. Furthermore, many businesses have employees living in different time zones and halfway around the world. You may live in California, but your boss may reside in Chicago or even Beijing. As a result, workers need to be more resourceful and self-directed than ever before. By giving students and educators access to laptops and tablets in and out of the classroom, suddenly new opportunities arise, such as an increase in student-teacher interaction and facilitation of progress monitoring, all in a shared ecosystem. This mirrors working environments that many will encounter later in life long after they’ve left the classroom, representing a very valuable skill that will improve productivity, responsibility and accountability, especially if your boss is thousands of miles away and not looking over your shoulder every 10 minutes!
Rote Isn’t Right
Everyone can agree that the fundamentals of education are as critical today as ever, but these days, they aren’t enough to truly get ahead. We all know that globalization is leveling the playing field, so when young people show up to a job interview, they need to demonstrate exactly how they stand out from the pack. Technology in the classroom empowers students to engage in questioning, analyzing and investigating ideas – challenging teachers, even – creating a more diverse learning experience that goes far beyond rote memorization. Some schools, such as St. Joseph’s Academy, a female preparatory school in Louisiana, have rewritten their curriculum to incorporate modern learning tools such as digital multimedia, computers, tablets and social media. With pen and touch functionality in tablets, students at St. Joseph’s Academy are using stylus and sketch pad features to solve problems with geometric shapes, and multi-touch features for hands-on projects dealing with chemical reactions and problems solving equations. Is this kind of high-tech training aimed at complex problem solving a positive differentiator in a stack of résumés? Just ask any employer.
“New” Is the Norm
Much has been written about the benefits of breaking out of one’s comfort zone, being adaptable and trying new things. Exposure to technology – and the constant change it creates – from a young age ensures that a student’s comfort zone is constantly being challenged. They don’t need to “break out,” because they live their lives testing the boundaries of the status quo. But how does this work in a classroom setting? For starters, most tech-savvy educators develop curriculum from multiple sources including text books, social media, various websites and previous experience, giving students the most current information to choose and learn from. Faced with a constant inflow of fresh data from diverse sources, these students learn to quickly process and extract relevant information, teaching them to be more nimble and flexible, while also building the confidence to dive a little deeper into new territories. They also grow adept at interacting with different technology to suit the various times, circumstances and applications where it delivers the most value. Providing these opportunities in the classroom teaches kids lifelong skills like adapting to change and a fearlessness to try new things.
When technology is used appropriately and to its fullest, we see how powerful it can be in delivering richer, real-world learning experiences, fostering greater interaction and collaboration, and encouraging lifelong learning and curiosity. Whether we are educators, parents or businesspeople, all of us who have a stake in putting technology in the classroom should feel proud of what we’ve already accomplished, and be mindful that there’s still much to do.
Kevin Wrenn is SVP of PC Business for Fujitsu America. Contact him through Twitter @FujitsuAmerica